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Golgotha - The Place Of The Skull


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Sole Survivor to Father -

Personally Shaun, I find your sanctimonious, dogmatic prating to be grating. Because someone says that they’re my son doesn’t make it true. No real proof has been given.

The Institute have a real nasty attitude towards others. Stealing what you want. You could buy it, with the technology you have - but no, you kill the owners and rip what you want from their cooling, dead hands.

Kidnapping a child for your experiments. You the Director using your own *father* as an experimental subject. Are you seriously bonkers? Plus the prior administration’s assassin killed your mother? You still use him, too?

Speaking of Kellogg - the guy literally hadn’t aged a day since he shot your mother in Vault 111. It seems that cybernetics makes you immortal. So the research was mothballed because there was absolutely no value to extending the productive lifespan of your Institute researchers.


You know, I think you Institute scum took my baby boy - ran him through the meat-grinder for his DNA - and put the resulting blend into some cloning vats for materials for your synth production. Then 5-10 years later - once in full swing - you released me as an experiment, “old man”.

So this, “son”, is why I’m giving you an explosive shotgun blast to the face before getting my butt out of this “heaven” based on slavery and murder. If the remaining scum want to send their slave-soldiers after the Commonwealth, I’ll blow the lot of them to Kingdom Come.

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"That's...surprisingly grim, Blue. So that's what started the war with the Institute."

"In a nutshell. Coffee?"

At her nod he busied himself at the stove in the corner of Home Plate. "So - you're calling me Blue again. You've forgiven me for leaving the child-Synth to blow up with the Institute."

"You always know how to keep a girl off-balance. That Synth wasn't really your son." She hadn't realized, herself, that she'd forgiven him. Yet he'd picked it up in an instant. Damn.

"You are both correct and wrong." The aroma of silt-bean coffee - spicy, not burned like the real coffee she'd tried once - spread from the stove area. The tall, grey-haired, tired-eyed man sniffed thoughtfully at both cups then stirred a dollop of honey and some Brahmin milk into each. "Wrong in that he was most likely 100% my son on a genetic level. Or as close as matters. Correct in that he had been programmed - brainwashed - to think that he was my son when he really wasn't."

He carefully placed the cups on the table - Piper sniffed the aroma with a murmur of appreciation - and sat stiffly down in the stained old chair. "I know what can be hidden behind brainwashing. Nobody better. The Institute had even more advanced technology, imprinting a full lifetime of memories. Nick for example. God alone knows what kind of hidden kill-orders might have been implanted. Or for which targets. Me, Preston, you, someone else?"

The two of them sipped coffee in which had become surprisingly companionable. Like the old times, Piper thought with a slight internal start of surprise. Have I fallen back into...?

"You said that you know about brainwashing, Blue. Some history there?" She recognized the internal cover-up. Later. Deal with that later.

Hazel green eyes fixed on hers - that internal flutter again, she couldn't look away. "How?" The blurted word was almost defensive.

"Back before the War, the Chinese kidnapped a few American children and trained them from age four or five to be spies and assassins." He turned his attention back to his coffee, sipping it appreciatively. Piper found herself able to breathe - she hadn't realized that she'd stopped. "The two survivors of a fairly brutal regimen were exceptionally adept at sneaking, infiltration, theft, and murder."

"That's..." She couldn't think how to continue. She fell back on another thought: "Murder?"

"Yes. Hundreds of dead Americans." Hazel green eyes again staring into hers, through a veil of steam. "Once the two children reached their late teens their handlers decided that their usefulness was over. After all, they could no longer slip through tiny spaces. While nobody would suspect a ten-year-old of stealing something or sticking a knife in someone's kidneys, anyone pushing twenty was automatically a suspect."

"And?" A short breath snatched.

"The teenagers killed their handlers and several associated members of the Chinese spy network. In the process they were discovered by the American spy agencies who decided to repatriate them and use them in their spy-and-assassination network. Of course, the two chose to stay together...they didn't really know and trust anyone else to start with..."

A small sigh and another sip of coffee. Freed from the eyes, Piper blurted out: "You mean...?"

"Yes. Ultra-top-secret. Vault-Tec didn't know. Neither did the Institute know who and what they were messing with."

"But you're in your fifties, Blue! And you're moving stiffly!"

A glance up then back down to the cup. "Part of the persona. I was undercover for the Government. I could go to the Mega Surgery in the morning and be back to my real age of twenty-five if I want. Though being frozen, thawed, frozen, and thawed again certainly affected my health. The human body was not made for that kind of abuse."

"So you're about my age, Blue. Okay." She'd analyze her feelings later. Later. "So why would the Institute release you from the cryopod? And you said that Father looked like you..."

"I doubt that they did. What I think happened was a malfunction. A big surprise in the Institute when some old man crawls out of Vault 111 coughing blood, spends a month doing Army-style Phys-Ed, checks out the local area and kills everything dangerous in sight, then starts hammering the Commonwealth into the shape of civilization. When it seems he's going to get into your compound it might be worth trying to make an agent of him. As for looks -" he snorted derisively. "Mega Surgery."

He hesitated for several breaths...internally debating...then decided and spoke once more.

"I had Curie check the others frozen in Vault 111. Suffocation...they were drowning in their own blood when they were refrozen. Her diagnosis was ice crystals piercing and damaging their lungs, also varying degrees of brain hemorrhaging. The refreezing didn't help. I'd had the same, though through some fluke not as bad. It took some serious physical rehabilitation before I could actually leave Sanctuary." He sipped coffee. "Perhaps Nora and I were tougher base material after our training. Curie thinks that baby Shaun was unlikely to survive the process even once."

"So he was already dying when they took him?" She bit her lip in anticipation.


The off-hand casual tone was more surprising than the pain she had expected.


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Profile: The Iron General

Date: 2288

Location: Commonwealth

Origin: Vault 111, Prewar

Original Name: Nate Steele, husband of Nora Steele

Situation: Crawled out of Vault 111 last year, coughing blood. Spent a month doing Army-style calisthenics with some unusual variations. Some of these variations have been added to the Courser training program - the result is a 3% efficiency increase.

Speculation: Despite known prewar records the subject may also have been a member of some form of elite squad - possibly a long-range Commando team. This is consistent with subsequent actions.

Observed Actions: After regaining his fitness (Bioscience is unable to explain how he survived a doubled freezing-and-thawing process - there was a projected 100% fatality rate for all Vault 111 participants) the subject explored the lake around the old township of Sanctuary. This is consistent with a long-range infiltration patrol's methodology of checking your lines of retreat coupled with observation of the area.

Subject killed the following in his sweep of the area: molerats, stray dogs, radstags, numerous raiders, mirelurks, activated a sentry bot which apparently recognized his military background, self-destructed said sentry bot, recovered a partial suit of Power Armor, and killed more assorted bugs. Subject then left the Power Armor in Sanctuary - cleared the ghouls from the old Wicked Shipping yards - contacted the Abernathy family - went to the old USAF Satellite Station Olivia - then returned to the Abernathy's and Sanctuary. Subject spent some time building up the Abernathy farm and Sanctuary, including defenses.

Subject went to Concord, acquired more Power Armor and disposed of several raiders and a Deathclaw. He escorted survivors from the Quincy massacre back to Sanctuary. Minutemen runners have been seen in the area, talking to one of the survivors - the only ranking Minuteman remaining of that organization.

Subject has begun a systematic stamping out of raiders, supermutants, and other pests - all the time building up homesteads and sending out radio signals from each to summon wastelanders who might wish a better life. This process has been quite successful, culminating in the retaking of the Castle for the Minutemen. We have placed Synth observers into most settlements, including some of the new Brahmin Synths.

Assessment: While the subject is highly active in the Commonwealth there is no projected interaction with Institute operations. Given his high profile activities it is best to leave the subject be in the interim.
Section 33
Top Secret - Eyes Only

Names: Wei Lian and Mali (Chinese)

Current Names: William and Mary (American)

Background: Subjects are American children who were acquired by the Chinese at a young age and put through a strict regimen to develop them into spies and assassins. At age 18 and 19 respectively, their Chinese handlers attempted to dispose of them. Several members of the local Chinese spy network were killed by the pair - this alerted American spies who had been observing their counterparts.

It was decided to repatriate the pair and use them in our network. Discovering their operational history also revealed the extent to which the Chinese have infiltrated our domestic shores.

American Citizens Killed: William - 69 (est) - execution deferred indefinitely
American Citizens Killed: Mary - 73 (est) - execution deferred indefinitely

Assessed IQ: William (135) - Mary (141)
Assessed Fitness: William (290 / 291) - Mary (287 / 291)

Ongoing Assessment: Executing this pair would have been a blunder. The extent of Chinese infiltration had not been appreciated until they began teaching us the tricks that are being used against us. With that knowledge we have managed to note almost a hundred Chinese networks across America and have placed these under observation. This may be the turning point on the spying front.

Current Assignment: <REDACTED>

Assignment Names: Nate Steele and Nora Steele

Overall Assessment: While initially highly suspicious, the two have slowly relaxed and come to appreciate the ideals and values of the USA. Though their current assignment is soon to end, it has been decided to allow them a further six months of R&R in Sanctuary before their next assignment. They've more than earned it.


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“Preston’s talking with me now.”

“I had a chat with him, Blue.”

“I’m surprised that he listened. He’s fairly dogmatic at the best of times.”

Piper shrugged as she sat on the couch. New Brahmin hide. She made a mental note to check how much it would cost for one. “He still had to come talk a few times to really accept it. Has he talked to you about you shooting the Director of the Institute? He was angry about that.”

“Yes. That wasn’t the real Director. Lunch?”

“You’d better explain that Blue. What’re you offering?”

“Vault 81 mutfruit and chicken.”

“Sounds good. The Director?”

“The Institute had plenty of warning of my arrival.”

He started slicing fruit in the corner. Piper eyed the robotic provisioner who came up from the basement area and went out into Diamond City. “You’ll have to show me what you’ve got going on down there. Everyone’s curious.”

“The Skunkworks is semi-secret. It’s only here because there was nowhere else to put it at the time. Moving it is still not an option.” Plates of food to the table, stiffly sitting down. “Dig in.”

Munching sounds for several minutes. Piper noted that his eyes were never still, always checking the room. As if out in the broken city streets. “Something up, Blue?”

“Paranoia.” His eyes flicked to hers. “Reflex. So the Director wasn’t the real Director. You have plenty of warning, you can make a new Synth in five minutes, why risk it.”

She paused, mouth half-full. “Five minutes?” Mumbling, she swallowed.

“I timed it - six Gen 3 Synths in half an hour. You saw the rest of the place when we went through it. Do the mathematics of how many Gen 3 Synths you can make in a day. Over a hundred.”

“A thousand Synths every couple of weeks? That...wasn’t a huge place, Blue.”

He nodded. “No sign of a school, either.”

“You’re saying that we only blew up a tiny bit of the Institute.”

“Yes. Less than one percent.”

She had a sinking feeling in her gut.

“Now ask yourself how they fed a new thousand mouths a week - as well as where they put all that stuff. Also the Gen 1 and Gen 2 facilities.”

“Ugh.” She suddenly didn’t feel hungry and pushed the plate away. He took her chicken and chewed on it. “Much less than one percent, you’re right.”

“Which is why we still have Gen 1 and 2 Synths showing up. The Institute may have pulled in it’s horns - they still want things though. And they’re still killing people to get them. Luckily, it seems that we took out their only Gen 3 production facilities and molecular relay. Probably their main research as well. They’ll build more.”

She clasped trembling hands together. “I feel like I’ve got a big target painted on me Blue.” She noted without surprise that her chest was tight and voice squeaky.

“We do. I told Preston yesterday that I’m trying to paint the biggest one on me.”

His matter-of-fact tone took the remains of her breath away.
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“No comment Piper.”

Deacon brushed past her without the cursory smile he’d normally give and was out the door into the late morning bustle of the marketplace, merging with the crowds in a heartbeat. Piper raised an eyebrow.

”It’s not personal, Piper. The Railroad have their own crisis to work through.”

“Tens of thousands of Synths to rescue from an Institute that’s wider-spread than they realized. When did you let them know?” She let the door shut on the market noise.

“A year ago.”

He was seated, reading. Piper tilted her head - Lure The Tiger Out Of The Mountains. Not one she’d heard of. “Right after blowing the CIT buildings up. Why didn’t you tell us?”

“You were all busy hating my guts.” He indicated the nearby couch. “I went to the Railroad and rescued several Synths who’d teleported into dangerous situations, helped with a few other number-two enemies and killed some escaped Coursers, then when they’d started to relax gave them the bad news. They’ve been busy since trying to work out how to deal with the numbers.”

“I can imagine it.” She thumped down on the couch. Yesterday she’d been interested in getting one. Today it was only a handy seat. “Why did you save the Synths?”

“They are all somewhere between my child and grandchild. Genetically anyway.”

“I -“ her brain bubbled with several questions. “Curie?” Not the question she’d come to ask.


“Damn it Blue...”

He was laughing at the look on her face. “Relax - we sorted that long ago. She can’t have children and so far as we know Synths are near-immortal. For her the biggest worry is how she’ll cope once I’m dead.”

“There is that. I haven’t seen her around.”

“Vault 81. She’s been checking out Synth fertility. The organs built in are not fully-functional - the Institute seemingly didn’t want to go down that path. Perhaps they didn’t want to lose the work of half their slaves for six-plus months.”

“They...geeze. You told me about Eve.”

“Yeah.” He slipped a bookmark between fragile 200-year-old pages and placed the book gently on a table. “You were rattled yesterday. Something new come up today?”

“It wasn’t to ask this, for certain.” She gathered her thoughts. “The time you were helling around with Cait, after blowing the Institute up. Why’d you do that?”

“Buying time. Since I was persona non grata with you and Preston, I informed the Railroad - started a couple of small programs - then acted like I was suicidal. Was nearly killed anyway.”

Her chest tightened. “What...?”

“Some of the Brotherhood caught up to me. Was hairier than when they attacked the Castle.”

“How did you survive?”

“Cait. We were cutting a swathe through the Commonweath. She’s quite good in middling-close combat - saved my butt that day.”

“So that’s why you keep her around, doing stuff?”

“More than that. Kind of a project...she reminds me a lot of Nora and myself. She had it much worse of course. Going your entire lifetime with every waking moment full of abuse, it’s hard to relax any. Or grasp what normal behavior is. Or should be.”

“Yeaaah...” her mind was racing. “The constant drugs and alcohol though?”


Piper rubbed her eyes. She was stalling, unable to bring up the real question just yet. “Did it have to be that extreme?”

“After talking with Curie and Deacon - yes. The Institute had to be convinced that I was a broken-down has-been who would likely kill myself within a few years. They’d let that happen and wait confidently for infighting in the Minutemen to tear them to pieces again. No need to lift a finger while they recoup and regather in the shadows.”

“While you prepare. I see. Will you tell me what the business with Deacon is? He was abrupt.”

His eyes examined the ceiling. After a minute he spoke softly...Piper found herself straining to hear. “There are two bona-fide hands-on geniuses in the Commonwealth, Piper. One is in the Railroad. The other is in the Minutemen. Deacon acts as a go-between and brings some of the stuff they work out to the Skunkworks people downstairs.”

She bit her lip. “You shouldn’t have let that out of the bag, Blue.”

“Especially to someone who very emphatically burned her bridges with me a year ago.”

She squirmed inside.

“Yet a week ago you came in here and tried to repair them. I decided to give you the chance. God knows that people make mistakes - that doesn’t mean that those involved are bad people.”

He fell silent, looking at the door, obviously remembering. She remembered too. Two assassin children, hundreds murdered, two hundred years ago. One hell of a “mistake” to deal with.

Thank God they didn’t execute him. Them.


Hazel green eyes turned to her inquiringly.

“I miss being on the road.” She left the with you unsaid.

He regarded her for several seconds, assessing, then picked up his book. “Someday.” He carefully opened the fragile pages to the bookmark, became entwined in the strategies within.

“Thanks Blue.” Very softly.

“Mmmmhmmm.” Absently.

She quietly let herself out. She was glad that he hadn’t rejected her outright - while it wouldn’t be soon, they would go on the road again. Maybe she could eventually apologize for the one-sided fight she’d started over the child Synth.

She remembered that with shame. He’d ignored her hurtful words completely while the crater of CIT had slowly been revealed. Even Preston‘s angry questions. After the mushroom cloud had mostly dispersed - her in mid-scream by that point - he’d stepped forward off the roof of the old skyscraper.

A bad moment for all of them, even though he was in Power Armor. The distant thump of landing below. Her, Preston, the other Minutemen looking down from the edge: watching him walk off into the ruins of Boston.

None of them had had a word to say to each other. Avoiding eyes. Even Dogmeat had disappeared.

“No Synths allowed at the Surplus!”

Piper wove through the early lunchtime crowds towards home. He was still on the job, looking out for them all as best he could. The Iron General was still on the job.

She teared a little as she made her way, yet still walked buoyantly. It’d been a while since she felt this good.